Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) have become critical issues for any business with an online presence. The Internet is full of advice on how businesses can improve traffic, conversions, and sales by using better SEO and SEM techniques. If your business doesn't depend on customers coming to your physical location, a generalized tune-up of your SEO and SEM practices may yield adequate results, but if you rely on local customers being able to find your business, you need a more specialized approach for local lead generation.
A 2014 study conducted by Google revealed some key behaviors among consumers. They found that 4 out of 5 consumers use search engines to find local information like businesses, based on city, ZIP code, or "near me" criteria; and half of the consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone, and a third of those who searched on a tablet or computer, went to a store that same day. If your goals for your website include getting more leads and driving more traffic to your business location, your local SEO plans need to begin with an understanding of your buyer personas – the customers you want, what their specific browsing and buying habits are, their most common needs, pain points, and objections – and build a path from their browsers to your door.
Web Pages – Every page on your website is a step along this path, and should include location keywords, in addition to your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) information. Successful small business web design ensures that mobile users find all the information they want immediately, or those users will keep surfing until they find a local business website that gives them fast answers. You may want to consider including a widget that shows your most current online reviews, as well. Your website's SERP (Search Engine Results Page) ranking is strongly affected by both mobile response (as determined by Google) and by keeping a stream of updated content, so automated updates of local reviews, in addition to content offerings like new blog posts help boost your site's visibility. Mobile users are most often looking for address and directions, business hours, and product availability; include buttons for getting directions and calling your business.
Local Listings Online – Claiming your company's free listing on Google My Business and Bing Places helps local customers find your business more quickly and allows you to build a customer-supported reputation in your area. Start by verifying your NAP information, adding business hours, photographs, and ask your current customers to leave reviews for your business.
Targeted Digital Ads – Digital ad services like Google Adwords and Facebook ads allow you to select the audience for your paid ads, by location, demographics, or interests. In addition to boosting your SERP rankings, these ads are served to people who are not currently searching, but who are likely to find them relevant. If you've done a good job of designing a website that virtually walks the customer into your business and right to the products or services they need, these targeted ads can provide excellent value.
Local Events – What events are held in your community for your buyer persona? Consider exhibiting at those events, or, if there are no events that would attract your buyer persona, consider organizing one. Collecting leads in person gives you a big opportunity to offer added value to those likely customers, and to stay in touch after the event is over with a carefully planned follow-up campaign.
Email Marketing – Your email database is a versatile and valuable tool, if you take the time to plan effective campaigns. Frequent email contact with your customers and prospects helps keep your brand fresh in their minds, and offers an opportunity to build trust and expert status with those critical contacts. Obviously, you'll want to include emails for new products, services, and specials. Beyond those basics, though, you can offer your contacts additional value by writing informative and interesting content that will shape their impression of your business and, hopefully, encourage them to share your content with colleagues who will also find value in your content and business. Think about topics like new local legislation or regulation that will affect your likely buyers, new technologies that may benefit them (and which you offer), offer seasonal advice that leads to interest in your products or services, or case studies of local customers who have realized quantifiable benefits from working with your company.
Profitable Local Lead Generation
By fine-tuning your online presence and taking an active role in building brand recognition and relationships in your community, you can drive traffic to your business in a more sustainable and profitable way. Provide informational value to your customers, and they'll willingly lend a hand to spread your marketing message to new local leads.